South Texas Border Patrol stations are so overcrowded that the U.S. is flying migrants to other areas of the border to begin processing them, the Washington Post reports. The first flight left McAllen, Tx., on Friday, transferring detainees to facilities in Del Rio, Tx. There are daily flights scheduled for the next several days, with two planned for Tuesday. The flights are run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but the detainees remain in the custody of Border Patrol. Though ICE routinely uses aircraft to move detainees among detention facilities, it is unusual for the Border Patrol to fly recent arrivals from one part of the border to another to perform routine booking procedures.
Homeland Security officials sought the aircraft because single adults must be moved quickly out of the lower Rio Grande Valley. The agency is scrambling to make room for the large volume of families and children who have crossed the border in dramatically higher numbers. Officials resorted to using aircraft because all available buses were in use and authorities needed every available transportation option. “This is the worst I have ever seen it, by far,” said a veteran Border Patrol agent. The number of people taken into custody along the Mexico border has exceeded 5,500 daily for several days in a row, and the Border Patrol has more than 17,500 people in holding cells and tent sites in parking lots outside stations. That is a 30 percent increase from late March, when authorities said the situation had hit the “breaking point.” Flights will be used to transfer some adults to Del Rio, where facilities are less overcrowded, instead of having to conduct releases. Each flight costs $16,000 and can transport 135 adults.